2015, my first year in Varsity. I was straight out of high school and I quite honestly didn’t know what to expect in varsity. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was starting a new journey with new friends and a new environment. First day in class, I had already made some few friends. I was friends with my roommate and some other girl who lives next door.

Every class has these different types of people, there’s the joker, a group of girls that whispers and laughs when somebody passes by. There’s the quiet matured guy that sits at back. There’s that girl that hates you for no reason and gets her friends to hate you too, that one girl that is loud and hyper and talks to everyone and everybody finds her annoying and then there’s the late comers.

You see, in my class we had every single one of those people!

I used to think that the girl who’s always late likes to make a grand entrance. The girl who’s always loud is an attention seeker, annoying and needs to keep quiet. The guy who’s at the back is shy and probably has never had a girlfriend. The girls who are always gossiping think they are better than everyone and the guy who’s always cracking jokes is lame. And me…

I used to just sit on my desk and observe every single one of them. I thought I knew how to read people but all I was doing was being a stereotype. Then came a day that changed my whole perspective on life and my thoughts about people. A life coach came over, played a few games with the class then started talking about issues that we face as students. She got us to open up and talk to each other. At first I thought what she was doing was lame and I told myself that I was not going to open up to anyone because I don’t like talking about myself.

She got us to move around and talk to each other and then we got to a point where we had to stand up one by one and say whatever was on our minds…

The girl who’s always hyper was raped at the age of 7. The guy who jokes a lot’s brother was shot in front of him and he died in his arms. The leader of the girls who gossip a lot in class cuts herself because she doesn’t feel pretty and struggles with her self-esteem. The girl who is always late drinks alcohol almost every day because she had a miscarriage and feels guilty about it. The quiet guy at the back has a 5 year old boy whom he loves dearly and his face lights up when he talks about him. And then there’s me…

It took me quite some time to talk about me because I had never told anyone about my background and the things I have gone through and still go through in life. I am the girl who nearly died at only 8 months old, not from sickness or anything, but from my father’s stick that was meant to hit my head while I was on my mother’s back, but she blocked it with her wrist and 20 later it still hurts every winter.

My father would beat my mother up every chance he got for no good reason until my mother decided to leave him. We started over in a very small shack with 4 of my siblings. And things were not very ideal; they still aren’t. And very soon I might have to drop out of Varsity because my mother can’t pay my tuition.

What I learnt that day was the biggest lesson of my life. We wear different masks every day, we try to hide the pain that we are feeling inside and we have different ways of hiding who we really are and what we are feeling. Some people joke around, some prefer to be silent and be at their own company, some are mean to other people and some feel the need to make fun of others to make themselves feel better.

The truth is, we all have gone through some tough times in our lives, we have experienced things that children shouldn’t experience and we come from different homes, all we want is to “fit in” so we wear masks to disguise who we really are. Do not judge a book by its cover, be nice to people, you have no idea what kind of demons they have to deal with every night when the mask comes off. Don’t let your mean words be the last thing they hear when they decide they have had enough.